Parliamentary Speaker Anna Makinda has lately revamped the structure of standing committees of the National Assembly, in a move that, along with the reconstitution of the central committee of the ruling party, has had far reaching political reverbrations.
A knee jerk measure to separate actual parliamentary discussion and its broadcasting was put aside following vast anger among most media and opposition circles, and perhaps being seen as a liability by top national leadership. Only the revamping of committees is open to technical interpretation.
Of the various committees that were restructured, two have provided considerable food for thought, firstly the foreign affairs, defence and security committee that used to be chaired by former prime minister Edward Lowassa. It has now been split into two or three committees.
Since regional cooperation and especially the East African integration process has now a committee level presence in the House, distinguished from foreign affairs in general. It is also likely defence and security merits a committee of its own, while foreign affairs can be on its own or merged.
A second committee was the public organisations accounts committee, headed up to that point by Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe, which was scrapped and merged with government accounts generally.
The MP has since then pursued the issue as an aspect of 'people's power' tirades, distributed phone numbers of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker to demand that the committee be reinstated and its chairman of course remain the Kigoma North MP. In an older Nyerere reflex one would have demanded 'what commerce' the committee conducts, to so cry and fight about it...
The popular version of things concerning that question is that the MP was making congent observations especially on what wasn't being done properly in the way the government manages the corporate bodies. In other words the disbanding of the committee is a blow to transparency and democratic oversight by parliamentary control through the committeee, especially when it is chaired by a prominent MP from the opposition, If one turned up at a CHADEMA rally and candidly opposed this view, chances are that such a person could be knifed, for betraying the people!
Examining some not so old interactions between the committee chairman and the government provides a slightly sobering picture of what is being contested, and in that manner, how awful really is revamping the committees and scrapping this one, etc.
The latest and acutely important function the MP was handling at the time of the disbanding of the committee was NSSF loans and their contractual premises with the government, with the MP issuing a series or orders to key social security funds - direct parliamentary command that doesn't make much sense as governing. Where do powers of a ministry stop and then powers of parliametary bodies start?
The same pursuit of parliamentary privilege and a measure of power, which with no need for expertise or doubt could equally have attracted a measure of commerce was the local governments accounts committee then headed by controversial ex-interior minister Augustine Mrema.
He was issuing orders to this and that district to arrest the district council director for queries on annual accounts, a campaign that ended as it began, and no one has heard about the measures in the past six months. The Kigoma North MP wishes to issue orders and underline errors, those of the government and not of the parastatals, and hates to hear of 'restructuring.'
That is why it is proper to say that the sentiment about governance that is being emitted by the CHADEMA iconic MP in 'people's power' rallies is at odds with reality, for instance in the way yesterday's parliamentary troubleshooter and Kyela MP Dr Harrison Mwakyembe is now helping the government.
It will be futile to say the least to check on whatever was reported by the public organisations House unit to see if the reforms and changes of personnel that the Minister for Transport has been pursuing could have been intialled in the committee. Far from it, all it did is how the government disrupts the work of parastatals, not the other way round....
A case in point as to how the MP has specific strategies designed to remove state obstacles to parastatal autonomy, and create public impressions (similar to those held in research outfits for instance at the University of Dar es Salaam) that the more autonomous the prastatals are, the better.
The MP and his allies have made an excellent effort to get the public to take off their minds about parastatal sector probity, efficiency and even chances of making a profit and be less of a burden to the government, an issue that is taboo these days. It has been hard to hear any such debate since the end of the second phase administration; the MP grew up with it.
Despite the fiction of being an opposition legislator, the MP is steadfast in radical CCM policy of not continuing with reform of the parastatal sector, putting at rest academic disputes in the past decade between CCM stalwart Prince Bagenda and CHADEMA chairman Freeman Mbowe, as to the latter following a 'centrist' policy line!
The MP made the most important declaration of his parliamentary life - and it is hard to pick such a chunk of steak since he has given plenty to the House and to the public since 2005 - that the Finance Minister Mustafa Mkulo was bribed to work to disband CHC (Consolidated Holdings Corporation). The MP wants CHC to remain a permanent entity like NDC, not a transitory entity for managing assets.
When it comes to the NSSF and how the MP defends the parastatal vis a vis the government, the same weaknesses arise, of seeing matters in a one-sided fashion where the idee fixe is parastatal autonomy, not its efficiency. wider public needs or government expectations.
The MP habitually collapses or mixes the interests of parastatal managements with the public interest, an upshot of the ideology starting 1982 with the likes of Samuel Sitta as corporate solicitor at the NDC, espousing the view that parastatals fail because of politicians' intereference.
Lately, central bank governor Benno Ndulu made the same demand in presentations to a hearing on constitutional reform, whereas the BoT has never presented a case for reform....
The Kigoma North MP was directing social security organs not to enter into any construction work with the government unless there is clear contract stipulating how the money would be repaid.
That might sound as if there is great concern for the people and how their money is being used, but it thinly covers a greater issue, as to what sort of corporate bodies the funds are likely to be, where they don't need explicit contractual engagement with the governent to do major construction work. Merely directing them as to what to do is typical messianic governance often tied to the image of some icons - Edward Sokoine, Augustine Mrema or Wilibrod Slaa.
In actual fact that kind of rectification populism nver works, for what is at issue is the ownership of the funds and how makes decisions, appointments of personnel, how 'beneficiaries' are paid, by what calculation and if they have options of where to put their money.
Zitto Kabwe leaves the mass of the working people tied to this draconian control of their pension funds by government bodies, themselves rife with commerce and a government that just wishes to use them as auxiliary funds in budgetary terms.. It sees as lese majeste, slight of honour, to be reminded to pay funds so 'loaned,' on the flimsiest of excuses as in the University of Dodoma issue.
The MP's drive about seeking proper contractual engagment may have stemmed from a media outcry upon learning of the refusal of the government to pay the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) its construction costs for the prestigious Dodoma University, saying the fund 'handed the finished project nearly one month late.'
It reminded one of some aphorisms that President Jakaya Kikwete likes to use, for instance 'ukubwa jalala,' that since NSSF has the largest amount of loose cash in town, it will be asked to do all sorts of 'dirty work' for peanuts or without payment. Eventually the government said it would pay; no enforcement mechanism exists, and pointedly, NSSF isn't looking for it. It is taking up a big Mtwara project.
In other words, whether or not the work of the MP is useful for improving the way the government works with parastatals can be debated, but certainly his work has nothing to do with the people as such. There is no inkling of awareness that liberty is the premise of transparent pension funds, prudent investment and return that is directed at pensioners, not the govenrment.
But then these funds are parastatals like the NDC and other CHC members whose chief parliamentary advocate is him, Zitto Kabwe, hence he is the principal defender of parastatal rot in the National Assembly, falling overly silent about the work being done by Dr Mwakyembe for instance.
That leaves the issue hanging, as to when there will finally be a properly liberal political party seeking reform, not faulty radical oversight of rot and scam.